As the World Economic Forum is almost ready to kick-start on Wednesday in Davos, there is a great deal of discussion (and many debates indeed) about its ‘fourth industrial revolution’ theme and the transformation of the global labour market.
Today, the WEF published a report entitled ‘The future of jobs’, assuming a loss of 7.1 million jobs (and 2 million new ones) in 15 developed and emerging economies by 2020: a result of the technological constant evolution that enhances automation, AI and robotics and weakens human tasks.
While important technological advances have significantly shaped our global society and created new employment and business paths over the last decade, great challenges are only ahead of us. The report, although initially somehow gruesome (especially when it has to be meticulously combined with future action) gives the opportunity for deeper analysis and for a critical eye towards business, governments, institutions and individuals’ will and ability to adopt.
Eight important -in my opinion- points from the report (among many others) are selected below:
1- Jobs could be displaced in almost every industry but the most negative losses are going to be in healthcare (rise of telemedicine).
2- Gender gap is a critical issue (again) as women seem to be the biggest losers as they are less likely to be employed in fields where new technology advances can create jobs. A few examples are helpful:
Gender gap in Energy field according to report: 31%
Financial Services and Investors: 38%
Information and Communication technology: 25%
Media, Entertainment and Information: 18%
3- Rethinking education systems: The report estimates that 65% of children at primary schools today, will ultimately work in job positions that do not exist at the moment. Since future employees will need more technical, analytical, social and cross-functional skills, education systems (and especially those who still continue the practices of the 20th century) need to embrace change.
4- Most new jobs are expected in the information and communication technology field, as well as in the media, entertainment and information field.
5- There is going to be a growing demand of skilled employees like data analysts and data scientists, in order to make sense out of data chaos (meaning, the unprecedented flood of data generated by technological advances). Businesses will need to invest in new strategic approaches for their already workforce, applying better forecasting data and metrics.
6- Artificial intelligence and machine learning: Automatisation of knowledge-worker tasks that have been viewed as impractical for machines to perform, are now seen as significant drivers of change in various areas, p.ex: manufacturing.
7- Focus on diversity: It has been continuously discussed that businesses benefit from workforce diversity, no matter what the gender, age, ethnicity or sexual orientation might be (and although these barriers are still complicating the focus on diversity). However, the next years until 2020 technology can help towards workforce parity and encourage systemic change.
8- Changing work environments and flexible working
arrangements: Remote working, teleconferencing, co-working spaces etc are only a few of the workplace innovations created by new technologies. A percentage of the traditional full time employee-schema might give its place to external consultants or contractors on a project-by-project basis, both working with global markets remotely and using technologically advanced tools that can enhance their distanced employment.
(Ιmage: WEF report, ‘The future of jobs‘, January 2016, page 126)